As Americans debate domestic gun control following the mass shooting at a Florida high school last week, funding for military arms has evaded public scrutiny. The United States Department of Defense recently released its summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) with little fanfare.
The first thing to note is how little media coverage the NDS has received. Upon analysis of the document, however, the reason behind this blackout is clear. From the Nation on Tuesday:
The NDS is to government documents what A Nightmare on Elm Street is to family films; it’s meant, that is, to scare the hell out of the casual reader. [emphasis added]
The NDS makes the claim that the global “security environment” has become “more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory,” despite the fact that the U.S. has well over 1,000 bases spread out across much of the entire world. If the global security environment has become more complex and volatile even with the U.S. military present almost everywhere, perhaps that says more about the U.S.’ military strategy than it does about the global community.
The NDS opens by explaining that “[i]nter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is not the primary concern in U.S. national security.” This sentence alone seems somewhat like a slap in the face for the thousands of Americans who lost their lives believing they were fighting a war on terror and the scores of innocent civilians who have also died since 2001 in this U.S.-led global war. But for those who have been paying attention all along, it should be clear that inter-state competition has always been the primary concern of the United States, not terrorism.
And who are these inter-state actors? The NDS makes no secret that the U.S. is primarily concerned with Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, lumping them all together as threats in one complete paragraph:
China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea. Russia has violated the borders of nearby nations and pursues veto power over the economic, diplomatic, and security decisions of its neighbors. As well, North Korea’s outlaw actions and reckless rhetoric continue despite United Nation’s censure and sanctions. Iran continues to sow violence and remains the most significant challenge to Middle East stability. Despite the defeat of ISIS’s physical caliphate, threats to stability remain as terrorist groups with long reach continue to murder the innocent and threaten peace more broadly.
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According to the Nation’s Danny Sjursen, a lieutenant known as General H.R. McMaster (Trump’s current national security advisor), would drop by when Sjursen, a prominent departmental alumni at West Point, taught history classes.
“In 2015, McMaster gave us history instructors a memorable, impromptu sermon about the threats we’d face when we returned to the regular Army,” Sjursen wrote. “He referred, if memory serves, to what he labeled the two big threats, two medium threats, and one persistent threat that will continue to haunt our all-American world. In translation: That’s China and Russia, Iran and North Korea, and last but not necessarily least Islamist terrorism. And honestly, if that isn’t a lineup that could get you anything you ever dreamed of in the way of weapons systems and the like, what is?”
According to Sjursen, the similarities between the hierarchy of enemies painted in the NDS referred to above and McMasters’ list are uncanny.
The eleven “defense objectives” included in the NDS suggest that, as Sjursen explains, the U.S. is obsessed with hegemony, not defense. Number five on the list states that one of the U.S.’ objectives is to maintain “favorable regional balances of power in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere.”
In case anyone doubts the true objectives of the NDS, the document also states the following:
Failure to meet our defense objectives will result in decreasing U.S. global influence, eroding cohesion among allies and partners, and reduced access to markets that will contribute to a decline in our prosperity and standard of living. Without sustained and predictable investment to restore readiness and modernize our military to make it fit for our time, we will rapidly lose our military advantage, resulting in a Joint Force that has legacy systems irrelevant to the defense of our people. [emphasis added]
As above, the document states that Iran “remains the most significant challenge to Middle East stability.” In actuality, Iran is probably one of the more politically stable countries. And it is also unclear why Iran poses the greatest challenge, not the UAE’s recent invasion of Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s brutal bombing campaign, groups like ISIS, and the billions of dollars that are being pumped into encouraging a jihadist takeover of Syria, to name just a few.
Still, the efforts needed to combat these make-believe threats are now being valued at a whopping $716 billion for 2019. Remembering that both Barack Obama and Donald Trump ran their elections on anti-interventionist platforms, it should be clear that we have all been duped quite spectacularly.